The headline on NBCnews.com reads Women’s solo travel under scrutiny after vacationer’s killing in Turkey. In the wake of Sarai Sierra’s death in Turkey, there have been a lot of comments online about women traveling alone from kudos to statements like, “You can’t meet up with strange men your family doesn’t know when traveling overseas and expect to be safe 100 percent of the time.” Huh? A lot of violence against women takes place at home at the hands of a family member or friend. The days of women barefoot, pregnant and chained to the bed are long over. Women are on the move. Get used to it
Should women give up solo travel? Women solo travel bloggers uniformly agree that travelling alone is great, but they suggest being mindful and taking safety precautions. They are savvy women aware of the dangers that being a woman in this world brings and they plan accordingly. This is their lifestyle and they’re going to keep living it. The truth is, women who are alone, whether home or abroad, need to take safety precautions, especially at night.
WeGoSolo is a campaign launched this week by women solo travel bloggers and others that support them. The objective is to raise awareness of safety for women traveling alone. Solo traveler and blogger, Mariellen Ward of BreatheDreamGo writes about this new movement she catalyzed on a travel blogger Facebook group yesterday. Ward, who was in India when the young woman was ganged raped on a Delhi bus, felt she’d had enough. The #WeGoSolo Twitter hashtag and a blog campaign was born. Her post Ode to the lady traveller: Why we need the #WeGoSolo movement speaks of the blame the victim mentality and points out that the real question, “Why are men harming women?” She also links to relevant safety posts from women on the road. Ward says,” Women are brought up to be cautious and constantly think about their safety. Don’t walk in dark alleys, take a taxi home at night, etc. It’s no different with travelling. To be safe, you should research the place you are visiting and read blogs from other women travellers who have been there.”
I’ve always believed that common sense and our five senses are our best safety tools no matter where we are. If you’re a women alone (or anyone, really) don’t put yourself in dangerous situations. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. It always amazes me how many people go through the world talking on their cell phones or listening to their iPods. It’s dangerous.
It isn’t just traveling women who need to be vigilant. It’s all women. Violence against women is condoned by societies around the world. There was a story on the local news last night. The University of New Mexico has a ride program for women students. Apparently, the campus isn’t safe for women walking alone at night. Sadly, women need to be vigilant when alone almost anywhere in the world. Is it right? No. Is it the reality? Yes. Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues is behind a world-wide movement, One Billion Rising. They’re asking people all over the world to make a statement against violence against women on V-Day, February 14th. Their motto: Strike, Dance, Rise!
There are probably as many reasons that women travel solo as there are solo women travelers. Most of them love it, are intrepid and thrive. Most women travele bloggers agree that you should research the places you’re going to in advance to learn a bit about their culture and customs. In some countries, eye contact is considered to be provocative; in others a certain way of dressing may be misinterpreted. Learn what you need to and travel safely. We’ve interviewed a number of them for our Meet the Travel Bloggers series and I’m always awed by their thirst for adventure and intrepid approach to travel. I never thought to ask them how they keep safe on the road. That question will be added to future interviews. I checked in with a few of them today and got some great comments.
Evelyn Hannon is the Queen of Solo Women Travelers. She’s been successfully blogging at Journeywoman since the last milenium. Hannon has a wealth of safety and other tips for women traveling on their own. Her #WeGoSolo posts received 18,000 page views in one day. When the writer of the NBC article wanted a comment from a solo woman traveler, she’s one of two women quoted. She gave me a comment to share with readers. “As much as I want to see all women having a wonderful solo travel experience, as a journalist my first responsibility is to see that they leave home with a solid set of safety travel skills that they can call on when necessary. That has been Journeywoman’s mandate since 1994. To that end I’ve devoted one full section of our online travel encyclopedia to Be Brave Go Solo. In it are 30 articles designed to do the trick.”
Adventurous Kate, aka Kate McCulley posted The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety this week. She makes some good points and she’s a pro. She writes, “Safety is researching your destination in advance and learning what actions to take and what regions to avoid. Safety is only accepting drinks from bartenders and not letting them out of your sight. Safety is taking cabs at night when necessary. Safety is hiding secret stashes of money in different places. Safety is, most importantly, listening to your intuition and getting away from situations that feel potentially dangerous.”
Pamela MacNaughtan, of Spunky Girl Monologues, has this advice, “When I’m travelling I keep my mind open. It allows me to see my surroundings and judge which path is the best choice. An open mind opens doors to unique experiences, and alerts me to situations I should avoid.”
Theodora Sutcliffe of Escape Artiste isn’t quite a solo traveler. She travels with her adolescent son. But, as a single mother on the road, she has many of the same issues solo women face with an added one: she had to keep her son safe. The intrepid blogger emailed in reply to our question about safety: “The key message I’d like to get across is: Of course it’s important that anyone in a place they do not know, male or female, should be aware of risk. But most violence against women occurs in the home, at home, in the home country, at the hands of men that women know and trust. We shouldn’t panic about travel, and we shouldn’t panic about stranger danger.”
Freelance travel writer and blogger, Jeanine Barone of J The Travel Authority, shared some great advice for women travelers. Dress so you don’t attract any unwanted attention, loose clothing rather than form fitting. Carry a cover-up. like a pashmina, in case you need it. Never leave a drink untended,someone could drug it. Avoid ground floor hotel rooms and look around before putting your key in the lock. Check elevators before you get into them. “Most of all,” she writes, “I trust my instincts.”
British travel Blogger, Zoë Dawes, travels solo a lot and lived in Greece for four years. She suggests checking an area out for safety issues such as pick pockets and to avoid areas that look dodgy. She recommends trusting your intuition. “Often,” she writes, “you can immediately sense if an area is unsafe or downright dangerous.” This Quirky Traveller says, an “open, friendly smile works well!”
If you are a solo traveler by nature, read all the travel safety tips and use common sense. While nobody can guarantee your safety, you’ll have some useful tools for the road (and at home). Being careful doesn’t mean being fearful. Get out there and conquer the world.
If you have any strategies for staying safe traveling solo, we’d love to hear them.